Book: The Life She was Given
Author: Ellen Marie Wiseman
On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn't allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She's never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it's for Lilly's own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time--and sold to the circus sideshow.
More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents' estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.
At first, The Barlow Brothers' Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus's biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly's fate and her family's shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.
Moving between Julia and Lilly's stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.-Goodreads
Review: Lilly Blackwood has lived in an attic her entire life. The only people she knows are her mother and father. Her mother calls her an abomination and while her father spends more time with her, he won't even hug her. Her life is forever changed when her mother drags her from the attic one night and sells her to the circus as part of the freak show. Lilly, an albino, has to learn to survive on her own. In a separate timeline approx. 20 years later, we follow Julia Blackwood as she returns home to the Blackwood estate upon her mother's death.
Yes, this book is similar to Water for Elephants and yes, the author gets several things wrong about albino's (eye color being the glaring one). That being said, I still enjoyed this thoroughly and really empathized with Lilly, especially her childhood years in the attic. I was frustrated with her decision making at the end of the book but could understand where she was coming from. Like most books with different timelines, Lilly's narrative was much stronger and interesting than Julia's.
Overall, I really enjoyed this.